Manchester City and Liverpool will wrap up a loaded holiday schedule with a clash at Etihad Stadium. The Reds enter the matchday atop the Premier League table, but the Sky Blues could take over the coveted spot depending on results earlier in the day.
City have been on fire as of late. They haven't lost since early November and are currently riding a four-match winning streak that includes a road victory over Bayern Munich in Champions League play. They have scored 16 goals during the streak.
They run into a club playing equally well in Liverpool. The Reds have also won their last four matches and scored 17 goals over that span, thanks in large part to the magnificent play of Luis Suarez. His form in recent weeks is unmatched.
It creates a monumental matchup which could be for control of the Premier League title race once the dust settles from the earlier fixtures. So let's take a look at all the key information for the clash, followed by an examination of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England
When: Thursday, Dec. 26, at 12:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. GMT)
Watch: NBC Sports Network and BT Sport 1
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Manchester City: 49.5 percent
Liverpool: 27.5 percent
Draw: 23 percent
Top Storyline: Will City prove Brendan Rodgers right?
Rodgers continues to do a great job leading Liverpool. He isn't able to spend as much as some of his Premier League colleagues, but he's done well to identify some bargain additions, and keeping Suarez in the fold was key, as he's the great equalizer in any match.
Yet, when asked ahead of the key match with City which club was actually in control of the title chase, the Reds boss pointed to their opponents. Richard Farley of NBC Sports passed along Rodgers' remarks, in which he praises the Sky Blues:
"I still believe the title is Manchester City’s to lose," Rodgers said, his team set to travel to the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day. "They have the strongest squad. The resources they have are incredible."
Aside from it being a little weird for a manager to point to another club as a title favorite when his own club is on top, the statement could very well end up being accurate. City certainly have the talent and depth necessary to win the title.
But the comments also serve another purpose, of course. Rodgers knows the pressure is already on City since they are playing an important match at home. He added even more attention to Liverpool's opponents by saying the title is theirs to lose.
At the same time, it's also an opportunity to fire up his own squad so they go out and attempt to prove him wrong by emerging with all three points. So while mind games won't be enough to win the match, it's a nice tactic by Rodgers to take some pressure off his group and put it on City instead.
The Citizens now have to go out and focus on proving him right.
It all starts with slowing down Suarez, an extremely difficult task likely to fall on the shoulders of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis. They don't have to stop him completely, but they can't allow him to dominate like he's done so often in recent weeks.
If they can do that, then City should be able to start controlling the match in the middle of the pitch with the trio of Samir Nasri, David Silva and Jesus Navas. It's an area where the Sky Blues have excelled during their run of terrific form.
The match has clear potential to become a high-scoring shootout since the attacks of both clubs have been playing so well lately. Yet, City also know they don't want to play too wide open of a match, which will play into the hands of Suarez and Co.
A more patient approach, attacking the right side of the Liverpool defense featuring Martin Kelly, probably represents their best chance. It should still be an entertaining match with several chances at both ends, with City pulling out a narrow victory.
Manchester City 2, Liverpool 1
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